Metro-Mesa League openers serve up dramatic endings


A quartet of Eastlake defenders converge on Mater Dei Catholic running back Aiden Calvert during last Friday's Metro-Mesa League opener between the teams. Photo by Jon Bigornia

Metro-Mesa League play expected to be especially competitive this season for area high school football teams. Last Friday’s pair of league openers did not disappoint.

Both games ended in come-from-behind wins, with one game decided in the final 30 seconds.

Trailing 23-7 with 10 minutes to play, Otay Ranch racked up the game’s final 19 points to shade Bonita Vista, 26-23, in a game played at Southwestern College. The game-winning touchdown came with just 24.2 seconds left on the score clock .

Defending league champion Eastlake, off to a wholly disappointing 1-5 start in non-league play, found itself staring at a 21-14 deficit against visiting Mater Dei Catholic before rallying to win 36-21 with 22 unanswered points.

Eastlake (1-0 in league, 2-5 overall) will be in search of its second win in a row when it tackles Bonita Vista (0-1, 3-4) in the teams’ annual Battle for the Boot rivalry game this Friday, while Otay Ranch (1-0, 3-4) will visit Mater Dei Catholic (0-1, 3-4) on Oct. 18 following a bye week.

“It’s going to be very exciting,” Otay Ranch head coach Lance Christensen said of the race for this year’s league championship banner. “We’ve all played challenging schedules. We’re all familiar with each other.

“Everyone is in the mix. Whichever team plays the best that night has the best chance to win.”

Bonita Vista won three quarters of last Friday’s game but it wasn’t enough to hold off a determined fourth quarter rally by the visitors.

The Mustangs played their best when it counted to scrape out the key victory.

The loss was the second consecutive for the Barons. Both losses came in disappointing fashion.

Bonita Vista built a rather convincing 21-7 halftime lead and tacked on a two-point safety early in the third quarter to zoom in front 23-7 on the scoreboard.

But the game was not over.

Jubilant Otay Ranch players celebrate after recording dramatic 26-23 come-from-behind victory against host Bonita Vista. Photo by Phillip Brents

Otay Ranch began its comeback as Adrian De La Cruz scored on a five-yard run. Quarterback Paco Puentes then connected with Ethan Knight, returning from an injury, on a 42-yard touchdown pass to suddenly narrow the score to 23-20 with 7:11 still to play in the contest.

The Barons needed another touchdown to quell the uprising by the Mustangs and initially responded as Ron Vann Jr. caught a pass on third-and-22 to give the hosts a much-needed first down.

But the drive ended on fourth-and-seven.

Otay Ranch took over at its own 47-yard line. A pass from Puentes to Dela Cruz quickly positioned the ball at the BV 33-yard line.

Two runs by Carl Addy moved the ball to the Baron six-yard line with 1:16 to play in regulation.

A field goal would tie the score but the visitors still had time and momentum on their side.

Facing third-and-five, the Mustangs completed their stampede on the scoreboard as Puentes passed the final five yards to Jaiden Smith.

On Bonita Vista’s final possession, a clutch reception by Josh Buchanan got the ball at the 49-yard line with 1.4 seconds left. But with fans on both sides of the stadium standing to watch the final play, a short completion and tackle ended the game.

“Holy cow!” Christensen exclaimed after the dramatic comeback win.

“This was huge. Bonita played really well. Bonita played a great game. It took everything on our part to come away with the victory.”

“When we went into halftime, we weren’t nervous or anxious,” senior running back Owen Oswald said. “We knew we were a second-half team. Once we get started, it’s hard to knock us off our tracks.”

Puentes completed 10 of 16 passing attempts for 169 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Senior Dylan Baca had four catches for 70 yards while Knight caught two passes for 65 yards, including one for a touchdown.

Otay Ranch generated 191 rushing yards for a game total of 360 offensive yards. D.J. Meno rushed 10 times for 57 yards and Addy collected 48 yards on five carries. Dela Cruz rushed twice for 24 yards.

Oswald, who had two carries for 11 yards, scored on a five-yard run to tie the game, 7-7, with 11:20 left in the second quarter.

Bonita Vista’s Ron Vann Jr. goes up to make a catch while being defended by Otay Ranch’s Paul Richardson (9) in last Friday’s game. Vann scored three touchdowns in the Barons’ 26-23 loss. Photo by Phillip Brents

Bonita Vista aired out the ball to great success in the first half.

Vann caught three touchdown passes, including a 58-yarder to put the Barons up 7-0 near the end of the first quarter.

Vann later caught a 15-yard touchdown pass to put the hosts ahead, 14-7, and outdid himself by catching a 33-yard scoring pass while on his back in the end zone to put his team up by two touchdowns with 7:01 to play in the first half.

The Mustangs had a late drive halted on a fumble recovery by Bonita Vista’s Justin Shorty.

Vann racked up 140 receiving yards on four catches in the first half and finished the game with 202 yards.

Ultimately, timely defense prevailed.

After lighting up the scoreboard in the first half, the Barons failed to score an offensive point in the second half.

A Bonita Vista defender keeps an Otay Ranch offensive player out of the end zone. Photo by Phillip Brents


Friday Night Lights

Friday, Oct. 4

Metro-Mesa League
Otay Ranch 26, Bonita Vista 23
Eastlake 36, Mater Dei Catholic 21

Hilltop 49, Mountain Empire 21
San Ysidro 54, Sherman Indian 0
Monte Vista 34, Chula Vista 17
Vincent Memorial 8, Sweetwater 0
Holtville 62, Southwest 6

Friday, Oct. 11
Metro-Mesa League
Eastlake vs. Bonita Vista at Southwestern College, 7 p.m.
Mater Dei Catholic at Olympian, 7 p.m.

Southwest at Mar Vista, 7 p.m.
Montgomery vs, Sweetwater at Hilltop High School, 7 p.m.
El Cajon Valley at Castle Park, 7 p.m.

Eastlake’s Jerwin Novocio moves around end during last Friday’s game against visiting Mater Dei Catholic. Photo by Jon Bigornia

Titans open defense of title with offensive gridiron explosion

Some may have maligned the Eastlake High School football team’s offensive production in the opening half of the season. After all, the Titans scored just six points in their opening two games to kick off the new season and had collected 10 points in their last two games.

Eastlake’s biggest offensive output was 31 points in recording their only win of the season over host San Jacinto on Sept. 13. Otherwise, the defending Metro-Mesa League champions were 0-5 against San Diego County competition with a very negative-scoring differential.

But the Titans let it all hang out last Friday by lighting up the scoreboard with their biggest offensive output in 2019 by scoring five touchdowns and adding a safety to record a 36-21 win over the visiting Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders in the team’s league opener.

The 36 points were more than the Titans had scored in their previous three games.

That the hosts won the game in comeback fashion only made the team’s second win of the season that much sweeter.

It also came on Senior Night.

Seniors played a big part in last Friday’s win. Emiliano Lozano rushed 18 times for 221 yards and scored three touchdowns while classmate Mateo La rushed 24 times for 140 yards.

The Titans piled up 404 rushing yards in the game thanks to the efforts of seven senior ball-carriers.

Emiliano Lozano lets out a post-game scream after scoring three touchdowns. Photo by Jon Bigornia

Lozano was his most deadliest in the second half as the hosts fought back from a 21-14 deficit.

Overall, Eastlake amassed 442 total offensive yards, including 38 passing yards off the arm of junior quarterback Cole McFarlane.

The game opened in opportunistic fashion as Matthew Zaravia returned an intercepted pass 36 yards for a touchdown and Lozano scored on a 39-yard touchdown run.

But things began to look somewhat gloomy after the hosts coughed up two fumbles and an interception.

Mater Dei Catholic capitalized on the miscues to score 21 unanswered points and take the lead in the third quarter.

Freshman Tre Edwards scored on a 74-yard interception return to get the Crusaders on the scoreboard. Quarterback Trevor Appelman then threw a pair of touchdown passes — 17 yards to Jessie Campbell and 50 yards to Damon King.

Eastlake did not score until the fourth quarter. However, at that time the floodgates opened with 22 unanswered points.

Senior Jerwin Novicio scored on a 12-yard run, followed by explosive scoring bursts of 56 and 67 yards from Lozano.

The hosts recorded four turnovers on defense. Senior Maximus Susi led EHS with six unassisted tackles while senior Jackson Daley and sophomores C Aguilar and Isaiah Hinojosa each had one sack.

Novicio recorded two interceptions on defense besides scoring a rushing touchdown.

Junior Braiz Ramirez was successful on four of five extra-point conversions while junior Wil Smith was credited with a two-point safety.


Photos by Jon Bigornia


Counting down the prep football season: four weeks left until CIF playoffs

How time has flown by!

It seems just like yesterday when the high school football season kicked off on Aug. 23.

Now it’s pushing Halloween and, all of a sudden, there are only four weeks left in regular season play.

The 2019 prep pigskin season ends on Nov. 1, followed by the San Diego Section seeding meeting the next morning. The opening round of the divisional playoffs kicks off Nov. 8.

For us locals, we’ll have some prime viewing. The CIF finals are once again scheduled to take place at Southwestern College’s DeVore Stadium.

The Open Division final is set for Nov. 23, followed by a pair of championship doubleheaders the following weekend.

The Division IV title game is scheduled for Nov. 29 at 1 p.m., followed by the Division II final at 7 p.m.

The Division III title game is scheduled Nov. 30 at 1 p.m., followed by the Division I final at 7 p.m.

The Division V championship game is scheduled Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. at Otay Ranch High School.

There are indications that several South County teams could drive deep into this year’s postseason tournament.

Hilltop (6-1) entered the week ranked second among Division III schools while Castle Park (6-0) is ranked second among Division V schools.

Montgomery (5-1) is ranked third among Division IV teams.

Key games this Friday include seventh-ranked El Cajon Valley (3-3) at Castle Park and Montgomery against 15th-ranked Sweetwater (1-5) in a game scheduled at Hilltop High School.

Hilltop has a bye before kicking off Metro-South Bay League play Oct. 18 at Chula Vista in the teams’ annual Chula Vista Kiwanis Bowl rivalry game.

The Spartans dropped to 0-7 following last Friday’s 34-17 non-league loss at Monte Vista (2-4).

The Lancers cannot afford to look past any opponent at this stage of the season if they want to secure a favorable seed in the upcoming playoffs.

But pride can carry a team a long way, even a winless team.

Metro-Pacific League play kicks off the final three weeks of the season. Montgomery stands just ahead of Castle Park in the overal section rankings, making this race hard to call.

Friday’s game between the Aztecs and Red Devils is a big one as both teams are vying for Division IV playoff spots.

Sweetwater, which lost 8-0 last Friday to Vincent Memorial, the top-ranked Division V team, is out to snap a four-game losing streak and build some late season momentum.

“We just need to know our assignments and actually do them during the game,” SuHi head coach Bryan Wagner said. “We have left a lot of positive plays out there. We need to have some playmakers step up and make plays.”

Every win at this point of the season is important.

The Metro-Pacific championship game could come down to the annual Castle Park-Montgomery Warrior Bowl match-up Nov. 1.

Well, that would be just swell.

Go green
Hilltop concluded its five-game homestand with a 4-1 record following last Friday’s 49-21 non-league win over Mountain Empire (1-5).

The Lancers piled up 411 total offensive yards, including 334 rushing yards. Senior Jeremiah Serrano rushed 24 times for 251 yards and three touchdowns. He now has scored 14 touchdowns on the season.

Quarterback Javin Deanda threw one touchdown pass and one interception while also rushing for a touchdown. He has now thrown for 1,677 yards on the season with 15 touchdowns.

Abraham Avila (rushing) and Diego Castro (receiving) both scored one touchdown in last Friday’s game.

The Hilltop defense recorded three sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery.

“Mountain Empire is very well coached and disciplined,” Lancer head coach Andrew Westling said. “We are excited to rest and recharge before a very competitive league slate.”

Cougar country
After suffering through a 17-game losing streak, the San Ysidro Cougars have suddenly won back-to-back games after clawing visiting Sherman Indian from Riverside, 54-0, last Friday. The Cougars have out-scored their competition 87-19 in the last two games.

“We took advantage of our team speed early and got up big quick,” SYHS head coach Keith Aguon said. “Our young sophomores — quarterback Matthew Jaime and slot/safety Makai Jackson — are starting to blossom into consistent players. Our defense continues to shine with 17 tackles for a loss, and five more sacks to bring our season total to 30, which leads the county. We’re very proud of our team the last two weeks, which hopefully shows what we can be sooner rather than later”.

San Ysidro racked up 446 yards in total offense in improving to 2-5 on the season.

Jaime collected 176 total yards in last Friday’s win with two touchdown throws and one rushing touchdown while Jackson rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

The Cougars have a bye week before hosting Montgomery in the teams’ Metro-Pacific League opener on Oct. 18.